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Creatures of the Night - Gregory Reece Interview with the Fortean Times

Creatures of the Night - Gregory Reece Interview with the Fortean Times

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Published by I.B.Tauris
George Binning has a late night chat with Dr Gregory L Reece, the historian of religion who hangs out with werewolves and vampires.
George Binning has a late night chat with Dr Gregory L Reece, the historian of religion who hangs out with werewolves and vampires.

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Published by: I.B.Tauris on May 24, 2012
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all seem quite cuddly, butone has to consider thepossibility that, as Schnoe-belin claims, some o theirpractices are perhaps morediabolical behind the scenes.“That’s always a question Iask because o my approach,” Gregagrees. “I don’t go undercover; when Iapproach these groups I’m very uprontabout who I am and what I do, sothere’s always a suspicion that I mightonly see part o what the reality is.“But with someone like Wol, I’ve gotno doubts about his testimony becauseI’ve got to know him pretty well andwe’ve developed a kind o deeperrelationship. Raven, the vampire I metin the bar in New Orleans… I don’tknow. It was just an encounter in avampire bar – we could have both beenputting each other on, on some level, Isuppose.“But I did talk a bit to the vampirealliance in Atlanta. They have a PRcampaign; they have material ready togive out so I know they’re aggressivelytrying to improve their image.“With Pendragon and the Brother-hood o Satan, I was with them or aweekend and I spent an awul lot otime with them – so I suspect what Isaw was what was really happening;they didn’t put on a show or the entireweekend just or me. I was there. Ijust sort o sat o to the side, and, youknow…”On the subject o access, I wonderwhether Greg has been with Wol atFull Moon. Sadly not, it turns out,although he suspects there might notbe much to write to the Vatican about.“While some ‘therians’ [those claim-ing close identication with animals,real or ctional, who ‘shape-shit’, toother orms] report that the phases othe Moon have some infuence on shit-ing, many reject this notion,” he says.“Some claim that the Moon has moreinfuence on an inexperienced therianthan one with more experience, who ismore likely to be able to shit at will.Wol Van Zandt, I believe, has indi-cated that his therian states tend tobe infuenced not by the Moon, but bylarge bodies o moving water.Inevitably, there comes a pointwhere one’s disbelie is suspended by athread. Many ‘sanguine’ (blood-drink-ing, rather than condent) vampires,eeling more than just a compulsion todrink blood, claim to have a biological
or blood; some even believeit hides in a vampire gene. But isn’tthis quite a straightorward, testableclaim? Greg errs on the side o agnosticcaution.“I don’t know i it’s ever been testedby anyone, I’m not amiliar withany medical condition that requiressomeone to consume resh blood,” headmits.“I have to say that the sanguinar-ians – those who do say they need toconsume blood in order to stay alive
t was a dark and stormy night, andI sat alone. An image, a ace romthe other side, appeared beoreme. I was “Skyping” Dr Gregory LReece, author o
Creatures of the Night 
,on the other side o the Atlantic, inAlabama.Having tackled the subjects o
Weird Science
(2008) and
UFO Religions
 (2007), Dr Reece is now dabblingwith the occult. In his new book, heberiends a werewol, chats up a ladyin a vampire bar, and attends Masswith both exorcists and Satanists.“It’s one o those things I loveabout what I do. Wol Van Zandt – thewerewol that I talk about in the book– lives very near to me, so we’ve man-aged to stay in contact. As soon as thebook comes out in the States I’ll makea point o having a lunch date with himand take him a copy. He’s a wonderulguy and un to hang out with.”Sel-proessed werewolves andvampires are two major races o theOtherkin diaspora (
),those who identiy with mythicalcreatures, both physically and oten inmore transcendental ways.“The vampires I’ve met tend to bevery sincere in their approach and theyreally want to make sure the world getssome understanding o who they are,”Reece tells me.He also spent a weekend withDruwydion Pendragon/Orion/Davidde Paul, a man known at various timeso his lie as the leader o the Brother-hood o Satan, ‘Ipsissimus, High Priestand King o the Morning Star’, and‘Grand Master, Ancient o Knights othe Temple o Solomon, BaphometPreceptory’. Although it is said (byWilliam Schnoebelin, the Satanist-turned-Evangelical Christian) thatPendragon had, in the 1980s, boastedo human sacrice, Reece describeshim and the ‘theistic’ Brotherhood aspretty average people, “except thatthey don’t go to church. Instead theycome together our times a year ortheir special ceremonies.“Likewise, with vampires. They’renot bloodsucking ends that haunt theshadows, but normal people who havenormal ve-day-a-week jobs and justhappen to be vampires.”The werewolves, vampires andSatanists that Reece actually meets
Dr Gregory LReece: quite a nicechap really.
has a late night chat with Dr GregoryL Reece, the historian of religion who hangs out withwerewolves and vampires…
118. Creatures of the Night
   D   R   G   R   E   G   O   R   Y   L   R   E   E   C   E
“Vampires arenormal people who have nine-to-fve jobs
– they’re generally talking about justa very small amount. I was kind oamazed when I was reading some othe literature – you’re talking aboutmaybe the equivalent o a couple oraw steaks a month to maintain theirhealth, so not huge amounts.“It’s hard or me to imagine the bio-logical cause or that – maybe an irondeciency or something. Some peopleseem compelled, and I’m not a scient-ist, or a medical doctor, so I don’t wantto say that they’re completely wrongabout what their claims are. Obviously,they
compelled or one reason oranother to consume blood.”I pressed, Greg will admit thathis scepticism has occasionally beenpushed to outright suspicion. Herecalls a tale rom the days o
Weird Science
: “In an earlier book, I did someresearch into Bigoot. I was with somepeople hunting Bigoot, and there myscepticism was probably at its mostextreme. I had an almost impossibletime guring out whether I was beingput on by everyone involved or i every-one involved really believed.“We ound tracks o the Sasquatchwithin ve minutes o my arriving onthe scene and I immediately startedthinking, ‘Well, I’m being conned bythe people who are running the showhere. They’ve put the tracks here orme to nd.’“But people seemed to be so intenseabout it that I began to think, ‘Well,maybe there’s another explanation.Maybe the locals or somebody notaliated with this group have plantedit here to ool us all.’“Then, o course, you have to admit,well, maybe it’s a
track – althoughI was sceptical o that because o itspristine nature. There were only threetracks in a row and they were all o theright oot, so it looked like a plant tome.”‘Real’ vampires and werewolves arediscovering themselves in increasingnumbers nowadays, while Satanistsand exorcists have come in and outo ashion. Greg’s book rames theseoccult liestyle choices in the contexto man’s understanding o horror inboth the real and ctional worlds.Alongside a wealth o literary reer-ences, he also digs up Conan Doyle’sspiritualist investigations, 18th-centuryreports o Eastern European vampire(or
) outbreaks (see ‘VampireAutopsies’, pp44–48 this issue), were-wol hunts rom 1521 and the 20th-century revival o exorcism.Reece careully and wryly withholdsjudgement on the empirical trutho these and other rsthand reports,except to occasionally question thereliability o the witness. However,I eel I must ask whether his givingequal weight to the study o ction andto that which is clearly meant in earn-est isn’t making a subtle assumptionabout the latter?“I would hope not,” he says,“because I approached these eyewit-ness accounts with an open mind. I alsobelieve very rmly – and i you look atthe history o these concepts you willnd this to be the case – that the ct-ion infuences the rsthand accounts,and the rsthand accounts infuencethe ction, so they have to be treatedtogether; it’s give and take.“But whether it’s ghosts or vampiresor werewolves, they began with realaccounts, with people telling storieso things that really happened tothem, and only later did they becomeco-opted by ction. At this point in thehistory o Western culture, ction hashad such a pervasive role that mosto our rsthand accounts tend to becoloured by it.“Take vampires, or example. I thinkpeople have really begun to identiywith the myth that is associated withvampires in the Western tradition.Maybe pushing aside some o the Chris-tian interpretation o vampires, butnevertheless latching onto a lot o theother Gothic imagery. I think peoplehave ound that to be a very persuasivemodel or governing their lives, and sothey arrange their relat ionships aroundthose models that they learn rom vam-pire tradition, vampire ction.“Do I nd it so compelling that Imight organise my lie in such a way?No, but I can appreciate those whodo – it’s a very powerul set o imagesthat we have associated with the vam-pire, probably more so than any othercreature that I talk about in the book.Religious imagery as well as sexualimagery, it’s also pretty cool, dressingin black, living your lie at night, thereis a certain attraction to that.”Much o the academic direction or
Creatures of the Night 
is provided byRudolph Otto’s writing, especially his1917 book
 Das Heilige
(The Idea of the Holy)
. Otto asserted that human exper-ience o the divine was synonymouswith our experience o the terrible, theentirely Other. Having studied him inthe original German, Reece speaks oOtto as he might an old tutor.“I worked a lot with Otto when I wasin graduate school. One o the examswe had to pass in order to prove wehad the ability to read and translateGerman was to translate passages o
 Das Heilige
, so I’ve always had a placein my heart or Otto.“It just seems he really captures
Blood-sucking freaks or just regular folks?Modern vampiresare keen to dispel afew stereotypes.
   G   E   T   T   Y   I   M   A   G   E   S   /   C   H   R   I   S   T   O   P   H   E   R   F   U   R   L   O   N   G

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